History - Page 9

Inspired by the CFPU

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Since launching the Canadian Film & Photo Unit website, I have received many emails from individuals seeking more information about the men and women that made up the Unit. However, I have never received an email quite like the one I received from Laurent, who sent me an email from Paris, France, in February, 2014.

Instead of a question, Laurent sent me a link to a photo from his collection; an inspirational full size replica of a Canadian combat cameraman, comlplete with patch, and Speed Graphic camera, based on photos of Lt. Don Grant, and Lt. Frank Dubervil.

Laurent’s project stemmed from an interest inspired by his Uncle (a former member of the SOE Special Operations Executive), who took Laurent as a child to Normandy on June 6th, to celebrate D-Day. I have included Laurents’ story here in his native French, along with an English translation…(thank you Caroline!)

PHOTO: Full sized replica of a CFPU cameraman dressed and ready for the D-Day landing in Normandy. Courtesy Laurent de Miollis.

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Laurent de Miollis;

Je suis né à Paris, en 1961, dans une famille ou la guerre était encore très présente.
En 1971, mon Oncle, Claude Planel un ancien agent SOE durant ww2 m’offre pour mon anniversaire le livre de Donald Burgett : Currahee , des éléments de son uniforme et me fait faire un voyage en Normandie, ou je découvre les plages du débarquement et Sainte Mère Eglise. Depuis cette date, je me rends pratiquement tous les ans en Normandie au mois de Juin.
En 1992, alors que je travaillais pour une compagnie japonaise de jeu vidéo et que mon activité me conduit régulièrement à Tokyo, je découvre dans le quartier de Akihabara un homme qui dans une petite boutique vends un curieux appareil photo. J’achète cet appareil sans connaître, et rentré en France apprends qu’il s’agit d’un Speed Graphic utilisé par les Usmc dans le Pacific.
Une passion dévorante était née, je découvre que cet appareil à été utilisé par les photographes américains et Canadiens et au hasard de mes différents voyages essaye de trouver ces appareils pour les ramener en France.

PHOTOS: 1941 Speed Graphic camera. Courtesy Emmanuel Legrand.

Avec les années je parviens à reconstituer la valise entière d’un photographe Signal Corps, avec un appareil que je découvre dans une Ferme, en Normandie qui venait de passer 60 ans dans un poulailler. Je restaure cet appareil pour lui redonner vie.
Absorbé par mes activités professionnelles, je délaisse un peu les appareils et ma collection d’uniforme pour revenir vers eux il y a deux ans.
Mais je me tourne désormais vers le Commonwealth, et je décide de compléter l’uniforme de mon oncle en Afrique et à force de fréquenter des collectionneurs avertis, je découvre les Cfpu et une seule idée traverse mon esprit en permanence, connaitre ces hommes, reconstituer leur équipement j’ai la chance de faire la connaissance de Frederick M. Jeanne-McQueen auteur du livre Hold the Oak Line « histoire illustrée de la 7° brigade D’day » qui m’apporte une aide considérable dans la réalisation de mon projet. Sur internet, je découvre le site :https://canadianfilmandphotounit.ca et commence mes recherches sur les photographes Cfpu et l’histoire de cette unité.

Je découvre que la grande majorité des images que je vois depuis mon enfance sont des images de ces hommes. Je dois à ma manière rendre hommage à ces hommes, comment faire autrement qu’en reconstituant une tenue complète portée un matin de Juin 1944.

Photo: A colourized rendition by Laurent de Miollis. Lieutenant Donald I. Grant of the Canadian Army Film and Photo Unit, who holds an Anniversary Speed Graphic camera, England, 11 May 1944. Credit: Lieut. Frank L. Dubervill / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-137026.

 

PHOTO: A colourized rendition by Laurent de Miollis. Lieutenant Frank L. Dubervill of the Canadian Army Film and Photo Unit, holding an Anniversary Speed Graphic camera, England, 11 May 1944. Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-115507.

Je prends comme modèle les fabuleuses photographies du Lieutenant Grant et du Lieutenant Dubervill et commence à rassembler les pièces, dans le même temps je procède à la restauration d’un Speed Graphic de 1940 acheté plusieurs années auparavant au Canada sur ebay. Je voulais que mon mannequin soit prêt pour cette année anniversaire du d’day et grace à un ami, Pascal Auger, de Québec et grand collectionneur de matériel Canadien de ww2, je parviens à faire venir en France quelques pièces magnifiques tout en me dispensant des conseils et informations passionnantes.

Pièces après pièces, j’ai réussi à retrouver la plupart des éléments, pour aujourd’hui pouvoir présenter cet ensemble. J’ai envoyé la photograpfie à Monsieur Dale Gervais, sans qui rien n’aurait été possible.Il me reste quelques éléments à trouver, à compléter, particulièrement sur l’équipement, le type d’objectif, le transport de l’appareil, ou rangeaient ils les plans films, quelle était leur formation, il me semble que les appareils étaient leur propriété personnelles, tant de questions, tant d’interrogations, et un regret qui ne pourra jamais être réparé, pourquoi ne me suis-je pas posé ces questions il y à 20 ans …
Mes recherches continuent, je veux que ces hommes sortent de l’ombre dans laquelle ils sont plongés en France depuis si longtemps, qui sait que ce film extraordinaire du débarquement à Juno Beach est l’œuvre d’un Cfpu, et que nos livres d’histoires sont remplis de photographies de ces hommes. Donc le travail continu, et chaque jour des choses passionnantes apparaissent. Les prochaines étapes sont de reconstituer la tenue d’un Cfpu affecté Airborne et de compléter l »équipement photographique, en attendant le 6 juin prochain, pour me trouver sur Juno Beach à l’aube pour communier et rendre un hommage à tous ces hommes sans qui je n’aurait pas la chance d’être un Homme Libre aujourd’hui..

English translation;

I was born in Paris in 1961, into a family for which war was still very present.
In 1971, my uncle Claude Planel, former SOE agent during WWII, gave me a book by Donald Burgett, entitled, Currahee, as well as parts of his uniform and takes me on a trip to Normandy, where I discovered the landing beaches and a place called Sainte Mère Église. Since that first trip, I make an annual pilgrimage to Normandy almost every June.

In 1992, while I was working for a Japanese video game company, and for which I was travelling frequently to Tokyo, I discovered a small boutique in the Akihabara quarter which had an interesting looking camera. I bought this camera without knowing and when I returned to France, I learned that it was a Speed Graphic used by the USMC in the Pacific.

This purchase ignited in me a passion – only to discover that the camera was used by American and Canadian photographers. I also became interested in trying to find more of these cameras and bring them back with me to France.

Over the years, I was able to « reconstruct » an entire suitcase or briefcase belonging to a Signal Corps photographer, thanks to a camera I found on a farm in Normandy, stored in a chicken coop for sixty years. I am now restoring this camera to give it new life.

Absorbed by work related activities, I had to put aside the cameras and uniform collection until I came back to it about two years ago.

Then I decided to focus on the Commonwealth and to complete the uniform belonging to my uncle, who fought in Africa. The more I frequented collectors, I discovered the CFPU. One single thought crossed my mind – it was to know these men and to reconstruct their equipment. I was able to meet Frederick M. Jeanne –McQueen, author of the book, Hold the Oak Line, illustrated history of the 7th brigade – D-Day. This provided much help in the development of my project. On the internet, I discovered the website:https://canadianfilmandphotounit.ca, and began my research on the photographers and the history of the unit.

I discovered that the majority of the photos that I’ve seen since my childhood are photos of these men. I must somehow, in my own way, honor these men, by making a complete uniform worn on a June morning in 1944.

I use the wonderful photos of Lt. Grant and Duberville that serve as models and I begin collecting pieces. I also begin restoring the 1940 Speed Graphic that I purchased in previous years from Canada on e-Bay. I wanted my mannequin to be ready for the D-Day anniversary and thanks to my friend Pascal Auger from Québec, who is a big collector of WWII Canadian military material, I was able to purchase a few wonderful pieces. He also provided much background and fascinating history.

Piece by piece, I was able to locate most of the uniform, so that today I am able to present this officially. I sent the photo to Mr. Dale Gervais, without whom none of this could have been possible.

I still have a few things to locate, to complete, and in particular, the equipment, the lens, the transport of the equipment, the storage of the stock, as well as what was their training. It seems to me that the equipment was their own personal property; I have so many questions and queries, and a deep regret that cannot be undone – why did I not turn my focus on this sooner, twenty years ago…

PHOTO: Full sized replica’s of ywo CFPU cameran dressed and ready for the D-Day landing in Normandy. Courtesy Laurent de Miollis/Emmanuel Legrand.

My research continues and I want these men to come out of the shade into which they dove in for so long now in France. Who knows if this wonderful film of the landing at Juno Beach is the masterpiece of a CFPU member, and that our history books are filled with photos taken by these men. So the work continues and every day I find passion in many things. The next step is to work on the uniform of a CFPU airborne soldier and to complete the photographic equipment, until June 6th next, when I’ll be on Juno Beach at sunrise, to commune and honour all these men without whom today, I would not be a free man.

CSC Combat Camera Award

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The following story is used with permission by Lieutenant-Colonel Réjean Duchesneau, MBA
Head, Defence Public Affairs Learning Centre
Chief of Staff (PA)

PHOTO STORY

CFPU veteran entrusts Award to DPALC

By Lieutenant Ronald Alvarado

OTTAWA- The Canadian Society of Cinematography (CSC) presented the CSC COMBAT CAMERA AWARD, a special achievement award to the Canadian Army Film and Photo Unit (CFPU) during its annual awards banquet held in Toronto on March 27th. Sergeant (Ret) Charles “Chuck” Ross, one of only seven remaining members of the Unit, accepted the award accompanied by two members of the current Combat Camera team based in Ottawa.

In a brief but moving acceptance speech, Mr. Ross said he was humbled by the recognition and that he was there as a sign of respect for the members of the unit who lost their lives and were wounded documenting the war on film.

“It is a great honour to carry out this tradition for recording history for today’s generation,” said Mr. Ross, adding “We were the fore-runners of television. Looking back at the astonishing work we did despite all the obstacles, we are both humbled and honoured to carry this legacy.”

The CSC award recognizes “the outstanding achievements of the CFPU during the war, in honour and remembrance of the courageous cameramen of the Second World War.”

Chuck then travelled to Gatineau and presented the Award to the Defence Public Affairs Learning Centre (DPALC) where a wing of the school is dedicated to the memory of the CFPU.

“The images these incredible soldiers captured during the war are known to every Canadian; they are our common legacy,” said LCol Réjean Duchesneau, head of the DPALC.

“The work they did carries on with the fantastic work being done by today’s visual storytellers, especially within Combat Camera and the Army News teams,” he said, adding that “It is important that we maintain the traditions of the CFPU, and an honour to be asked to keep safe this very significant Award.”

The CFPU was founded in 1941 in order to document military operations during the Second World War. The CFPU captured most of the still and video images for 106 Canadian Army Newsreels, and generated news stories about Canadian military operations during the Second World War. Its members capture images of the invasion of Sicily, the D-Day landings in Normandy, the liberation of Paris, and the Elbe River link up of the Allied armies, known as Elbe Day. Seven members of the CFPU gave their lives during the war and several sustained injuries capture the amazing images every Canadian has seen in some form.

“I was issued a browning .38 side arm, but I never fired a shot in anger. In fact, the only thing I recall shooting was a rooster for breakfast one morning,” said Mr. Ross. “I was more protective of my camera equipment than I was of my life. I never left my camera, and I always covered my camera first, then myself.”

Mr. Charles Ross is also one of the last members of the CFPU who was on the front lines, reaching mainland Europe days after D-Day. He and his buddies risked their lives to bring to the big screens back home images of Canadian soldiers clawing their way across Italy, Normandy, France, Holland and Germany.

Also honoured with a special CSC Award was Mr. James O’Regan of Ottawa, an communications officer with Environment Canada. Mr. O’Regan wrote, produced and directed the documentary video “Shooters” that tells the story of the CFPU as a tribute to his father who was a member of the Unit. He received the inaugural Focus Award 2010 for “the excellence of this film and the importance of its message.”

For more information on the CFPU: https://www.canadianfilm.com/cafu/cafu_welcome.htm (NOTE: a new website featuring the Canadian Film & Photo Unit is currently in the works and can be located at www.canadianfilmandphotounit.ca)
For information on Mr. James O’Regan and the video Shooters:https://www.jamesoregan.com/Shooters/index.htm

History in the Taking by Jon Farrell

CGJ_coverCanadian Geographical Journal: History in the Taking: Some Notes About The Canadian Army Film & Photo Unit

By Jon Farrell

(Prepared in January, 1945)

Used with permission of Canadian Geographic

The situation looked very grim for a force of Canadian infantrymen fighting, with tank support, in Ortona, Italy, on the morning of December 27, 1943. The town was partly cleared, but the Germans were fighting doggedly for every street and every house. It was a matter of touch and go.

A troop of tanks was inching its way along one of the streets. With them was a soldier carrying a movie camera and tripod. Suddenly they came under point-blank fire from a German anti-tank gun position. As the tanks ducked for cover behind nearby buildings the man on foot proceeded ahead of them, seeking a suitable vantage point for pictures. He found a spot to his liking, then calmly set up the camera, adjusted the lens.

From their cover the tank men watched his unhurried, deliberate movements, which suggested that he might have been preparing to “shoot” nothing more alarming than a giant panda at the zoo, or a honeymooning couple at Niagara Falls. Amazed, the tank commander opened his hatch and, with his own camera, took a picture of the movie cameraman in action.

In another moment the issue at that particular spot was no longer in doubt. The anti-tank gun was silenced, the enemy position overrun. The Canadians pushed on to clear the rest of Ortona.

The young man with the tripod was the Canadian Army Film and Photo Unit’s Sgt. Jack Stollery, 27, of St. Thomas, Ontario. For coolness under fire at Ortona, and on similar occasions, he was awarded the Military Medal.

Stollery’s citation reads, in part: “His appearance with the forward troops in moments of great danger…was in no small way responsible for bolstering their morale.”

CGJ_page02_02Typical of a CFPU production crew “on location” is this team, which made the picture “Smoke of Battke”. Left to right: Sgt. Allan Stone, film cutter; infantry officer in charge; Capt. Geo. Noble, cameraman; Capt. Joe Peck (wearing earphones), infantry officer attached as technical adviser; Major Gordon Sparling, producer, and Lieut. Howard Smith, director.

Another CFPU cameraman who filmed action throughout the Sicilian and Italian campaigns was Sgt. Jimmy Campbell. He subsequently accompanied the Canadian troops into Normandy. To-day you may find a grave in a meadow near Caen, marked with a white cross and the inscription: “K53057…Sgt. James Campbell…Canadian Army”. He was killed by a mortar bomb as he operated his camera: but the film was undamaged and eventually it became part of the deathless story on celluloid which tells of the Canadians’ role in the decisive victories at Caen.

There is another small plot near the beach at Anzio, Italy. It is the grave of Lieut. Terry Rowe, CFPU “still” photographer. Rowe was killed also while on the job. With him when the shell burst close by was Capt. Colin McDougall, cameraman and director. Capt. McDougall was badly wounded but is back now with CFPU on the Western Front in Europe.

When Allied forces made their attack on Walcheren Island, one of the enemy strong-points menacing the approach to Antwerp, cameraman Sgt. Lloyd Millon was in a Canadian assault boat which took a direct hit from a German shore battery. There is no grave to mark the scene of Sgt. Millon’s last assignment. He is just listed officially as “missing, presumed killed”.
The foregoing incidents help explain why the Canadian Film and Photo Unit has secured some of the best pictorial records of this or any other war. They also indicate that lens lugging in the front line, while it may not be the toughest job in the army, is “no picnic”. It calls, however, for attributes other than mere courage.

The good cameraman or director is first of all a trained soldier. He carries small arms and he knows how to use them if he has to. He is also a combination of technical expert, roving reporter, salesman and diplomat. Immediate peril is just one of his occupational hazards. His job does not always take him within range of shot and shell. In the course of a day’s work he is likely to have dealings with every rank from private to field marshal, and a supply of “know how” or savoir-faire is just as essential to securing good pictures as is a properly focused lens on the camera.

CGJ_page07_02Sgt. Weekes, cameraman, fills in a spare hour working on a cartoon for the Canadian Army newspaper, Maple Leaf.

“The work of the film director and the cameraman in the army often involves about twenty-five per cent actual ‘shooting’ and seventy-five per cent knowing how to ‘win friends and influence people'”, says Capt. George Noble, a member of CFPU since its inception, and prior to that a professional cameraman for many years in civilian life.

“Getting good results demands tact, patience, a quick eye and a ready wit. All our men have these qualities, at least in some measure. They know that a good approach, a courteous attitude, a brisk and skilled handling of their equipment can mean all the difference between a dull, routine bit of film and a fresh, lively sequence.”

It is probable that CFPU cameramen and directors know more, in a general way, about army organization, equipment and personnel than do any other group of men in uniform. Every commanding officer has a detailed knowledge of the work of his own particular formation, but he has neither time nor opportunity to learn much about other branches of the service. Film crews have a chance, literally, to study the whole picture.

A camera unit may be assigned, for instance, to make a film about tanks. There may be several different “angles” to the story–the operation of tanks in battle, their maintenance and repair, the matter of anti-tank weapons, how tanks are destroyed from the air. To secure the film the director consults experts in a number of separate units, and when the job is completed he and his cameramen are pretty well informed on the subject of tanks.

So it goes with every activity of the army, in training or in action. And it is not hard to understand why few Canadians overseas are so widely known among army personnel as are a score or so of men in CFPU.

The Film and Photo Unit was established in September, 1941, as part of the Army Public Relations Branch. Since then few events of any importance relative to Canadian troops in Britain or in Europe have escaped the unit’s omnipresent lenses.

For nearly two years CFPU was mainly concerned with recording the various aspects of the army training programme. Not until the invasion of Sicily in 1943 were the cameramen able to train their viewfinders on scenes of actual combat. A camera crew, headed by Capt. Alastair Fraser, went ashore with the first wave of invasion troops. One of the movie men, Sgt. Alan Grayston, was aboard an L.C.I. which was almost the first assault craft to “touch down”. Grayston actually had to wait for a while, crouching with his camera under occasional cross fire, until the main body of troops reached the beach. The film he obtained then included some of the best footage “shot” by any Allied cameraman on that operation, and it was given world-wide newsreel distribution.

CGJ_page08_03“Stills” taken by Capt. F. L. Dubervill, shown here in a Normandy dugout, were the first “on shore” invasion pictures to reach the United Kingdom. Radioed to New York, they were five hours ahead of the first “still” pictures from United States photographers.

Provisions for pictorial coverage, both movie and “still”, of Canadian invasion…forces on D-Day were thorough and elaborate: so it was not merely by chance and good fortune that CFPU turned in a performance which, in a number of respects, surpassed those of other Allied picture units. Here are some “firsts” with which it was generally credited:

Sgt. Dave Reynolds, who had been trained as a paratrooper for this particular assignment, dropped into Normandy with his camera–the first Allied cameraman to land on French soil.

Sgt. C. E. Ross (sp: Roos) was the first Allied cameraman to set foot ashore with the sea-borne invaders.

Sgt. Bill Grant’s movie film of the actual landings “scooped” the field by being the first back in London by several hours and the first to reach New York by 24 hours.

“Stills” taken by Capt. F. L. Dubervill were the first “on shore” pictures to arrive back in the United Kingdom. Radioed to New York, they were there some five hours ahead of the first “stills” from American photographers.

CFPU photographs were given most prominent display in all London newspapers on D Plus 1 and D plus 2.

The excitement among Allied force’s public relations people in london when this first film from Normandy was screened for the censors at SHAEFS “Theatre A” can well be imagined. One of the CFPU officers who was there described the occasion in these words:

“The theatre was packed with a lot of senior American officers, the censors and our own representatives. We sat through three or four thousand feet of rather dull stuff having to do mainly with preparations for embarkation. Then came Sergeant Grant’s material. It was good–damned good! All through the theatre you could hear people whispering and muttering surprise. When it was all over there was much excitement and planning as to how to get the film to the United States in the quickest way possible.”

CGJ_page08_04The young man with his arm in a sling is Sgt. Jack Stollery, M.C., much-wounded cine cameraman of CFPU. He won the M.C. for the example he set by his extraordinary coolness while filming close-up battle sequences in Italy.

And finally, CFPU film on the invasion provided the “climax shots” for all of the five British newsreels released in London on the first Sunday after D-day. In this regard it should be noted that CFPU movie material is immediately available to the American newsreel companies and to the National Film Board of Canada, which makes frequent use of it in its regular feature productions. It is also at the disposal of the British Ministry of Information, for use in special short films produced by M.O.I. and circulated from time to time in many European countries, liberated or otherwise.

Incidentally, the original strip of film which actually comes from CFPU cameras is never cut up and is seldom used for screening. From it “dupe negs” (duplicate negatives) are made for distribution. The master copy itself is sent to Ottawa, where it is carefully preserved as a sort of historical document in the vaults of the National Film Board. Similarly all “still” photos are preserved for the records.

Picture making, as we have noted, is a highly personalized performance, and the story of a film unit is largely the story of the men who actually handle the cameras and of the men who directed and co-ordinate their work. But there are many other uniformed men (and a few CWACs) working on the “assembly line” which links the “shooting” of an incident with the viewing.

Important functions are performed by despatch riders and drivers; by darkroom experts; by cutters and editors who process the film for screening; by the writers who supply the “still” captions or the movie commentary, and by the the various clerks who attend to the handling and documenting of film at its several stages.

Responsible for the over-all functioning of CFPU overseas is the Deputy Director of Army Public Relations in london, Col. W. G. Abel. His assistant is Lieut.-Col. Eric L. Gibbs, who arranged for most of the intricate chain of communications which has worked so smoothly for CFPU during and since the Normandy invasion.

CGJ_page12_01Pte. Nadine Manning, CWAC, examines test strips.

Since early in 1944 the Film Unit has operated as three distinct groups. Number 1 Group, in London, is headed by Maj. Gordon Sparling. Its chief concerns are administration and distribution, production of feature films, and the training of reinforcements for groups in the field.

Number 2 Group covers Canadians in action in italy, and Number 3, under the direction of Maj. Jack McDougall, follows our Army in Western Europe. Both Maj. Sparling and Maj. McDougall had extensive film experience with Associated Screen Studios, of Montreal, before donning uniform. Maj. McDougall was the first director called into the service of CFPU back in 1941, and his administrative and directive skill have probably contributed more to the success of the unit than that of any other individual. First full-time photographer to step from civvie street into Army Public Relations was Maj. L. A. Audrain. He joined P.R. in 1940 and helped set up the original photographic department which eventually was merged into CFPU.

The time element is vital in handling spot news film from the battle-fronts, and no other Allied film unit is better prepared than CFPU to get its product quickly from “producer” to “consumer”. Here, in brief, is what happens:

From the scene of action the cans of film are flown to an airfield in Britain, and from there they are taken by despatch rider or jeep to CFPU’s main office in London. After being processed there the reels are rushed to a theatre for screening before the censors. At the same time they are viewed by British newsreel men, Ministry of Information officials and others who may be interested.

As soon as the film gets the censors’ O.K. it is despatched by air to Canada. Under favourable conditions, no more than 50 hours may elapse from the time a roll of film leaves the front until it reached the Dominion. Meanwhile a few of the best “still” photos will have been sent to the offices of Cable & Wireless in London for transmission to a dozen different parts of the globe by the amazing wirephoto process.

An increasingly important CFPU activity is the production of “theatricals”–that is, short feature films. Several of these have been distributed widely in Canada by the National Film Board and in many other countries by the British Ministry of Information, which has issued them with commentaries in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Arabic and other languages. Such productions as “Wood for War”, dealing with the Canadian Forestry Corps in Scotland, “You Can’t Kill a City”, showing the emergence of Caen from its ordeal, and “Left of the Line”, made in conjunction with the British Army Film Unit, are on a par with the best of the new pictures in the rapidly expanding field of documentary film.

CGJ_page12_02Sgt. K. G. Ewart, one of the editors of the Canadian Army Newsreel, synchronizing voice, music and sound effects with the visual action on the film.

A number of army training films have also been made by CFPU. These dealt with subjects which could not be adequately treated in Canada — the army’s flame-throwing equipment, for instance, which was on the secret list when a film about it was produced and entitled, for obvious reasons, “Ronson”.

Still another project of the unit is the Canadian Army Newsreel, in which CFPU takes a particular pride, for it is the only newsreel of its kind to come out of this war.
“Of the troops, by the troops and for the troops”, it was started as a monthly venture in November, 1942, for distribution among army formations only. The reel comprises a selection of the best “footage” secured by CFPU cameramen. It is now being produced on a weekly basis and some 40 prints of it are flown regularly to Canadian troops wherever they may be.

The camera units working in the field share practically all the rigours and hardships of the front-line troops. They eat the same sort of rations. They sleep in barns, perhaps civilian billets when they can find them; in tents when they cannot. Often their only “home” is a slit trench.

A typical field section may consist of one “still” photographer, who is usually a commissioned man and in charge of the group; two movie cameramen (all of these have the rank at least of sergeant, several are commissioned:; one or two drivers, and a despatch rider. Such a section will travel in two jeeps, with trailers; possibly it will have the use of a light lorry. Chances are it is covering the activities of a whole division, and so it must be prepared to move quickly and often.

The exploits and adventures of these tripod toters, both in and out of actual combat, will no doubt enliven the pages of more than one book which will be written some day about World War II. You may then, perhaps, read the full story of CFPU’s Capt. Jack Smith, M.B.E., and how he came by that decoration. It will tell of how a freighter carrying him to North Africa was torpedoed in the Mediterranean; of how he helped save the lives of several burned and wounded men while ammunition exploded and fire raged nearby; of how he saved more lives in the water after the vessel sank, and of how he kept up the morale of survivors on a life raft until rescuers arrived.

Or again, you may learn in detail of an incident in France one hot day last August, when a party of three cameramen and two drivers, trying to take their two jeeps into a newly-captured village, ran into enemy machine-gun fire which wounded four of the five.
The story of how the four wounded men finally reached an advanced dressing station, and of how the fifth managed to get their jeeps and equipment safely back to camp should make a thrilling chapter of some post-war chronicle. (Incidentally, it was at that same village, St. Lambert, on that same August day, that Maj. David Currie, of the Canadian Armoured Corps, was winning the Victoria Cross for his heroic part in helping to close the Falaise “Gap”.)

For all its hazards and discomforts, the job of the cameraman in khaki is a curiously absorbing and satisfying one. I have had the opportunity of seeing many of these lads at work in the battle areas, and I would say they derive more pleasure from their daily routine than any other group of specialist in the Canadian Army.

Yes, they are a cheerful crew; and they seem always able to find a laugh to brighten the darkest moments. After that little skirmish in France, mentioned above, one of the wounded lensmen was being helped on to the operating table at the dressing station. He was obviously in considerable pain.
“How did it happen?” asked one of the first aid men, as he bared the leg which had stopped a machine-gun bullet.
The sergeant’s reply, through clenched teeth, was a masterpiece of ironic understatement.
“A dog bit me”, he said.

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